by Richard Stroobant

The last year or so has seen a major change in how radio stations receive commercials. As you are probably aware, there has been a substantial increase in commercials being delivered to radio stations via email using mp3 technology instead of DGS or reel-to-reel. For the most part, there have been no real “guidelines” set forth for anyone to follow. (We have recently received spots at our station that were encoded at only 92 kbps. It sounded REALLY bad!!) We also had a production house ask us if they could send 24 commercials on ONE mp3 file. (Good luck downloading that if someone still has a 28.8 modem).

As a result of this and other issues that have arisen in the last 12 months because of this change in delivery, ALL of the Calgary radio stations have met and developed the following simple “standard guidelines for MP3 commercial delivery.” (Relax! These are NOT unreasonable, and most of you are following these already.)

1. Each commercial should be encoded at a minimum of 192 kpbs. (It only makes the mp3 file SLIGHTLY bigger, and the spot is much better quality at 192kbps. Besides, if you are putting some time into a spot, don’t you want the final result to sound as good as possible on the air?)

2. Please, only ONE commercial per mp3 file. No sending 2 or 3 spots (or 6, like I got this week) on one mp3 file. Each individual commercial gets its own mp3 file. You can attach multiple mp3 files on an individual email, just keep it to one spot PER file.

3. All available traffic and copy information should be put on the email text that accompanies the mp3 file, not as a slate on the attached mp3 file. You can name the mp3 file whatever you want, but only put the audio on the mp3 file. (In other words, the mp3 file contains the spot and only the spot—no slate, no rotation instructions, no traffic. Just the 30 or 60 sec spot, period.)

4. Radio stations close at different times, and some stations may not have evening producers to process commercials that arrive after hours. So, to alleviate the possibility of a commercial not airing because it arrived late, we ask that you send out the commercial(s) as soon as you are able to. The Internet may be fast, but sometimes servers go down or other problems may come up. The sooner a spot is sent out, the more time it gives us to find another solution if we have a problem.

5. The biggest downfall of using emails instead of a courier (digital or otherwise) is there’s no real way to confirm that the spot was, in fact, received at the station. So, in order to let agencies, production houses, or other radio stations know when you got your spot, send a reply back (just two words is fine, “Got it”) saying it has arrived. This way the sender knows everything is okay.

We set up an email address for commercials ONLY (cjayspots@ and we have an auto-reply set up on it, so whenever anything goes into that email box, a reply goes out automatically saying “We got it, if there’s a problem, we’ll call you.”

The industry (agencies, production houses, etc.) is looking at US (the people in radio) as the experts in this new delivery method. And since we are the end user, why not tell them the way WE want it? After all, it is saving them a TON of money by not having to pay for a courier, dub fees, and other costs. So, the least they can do is make it easier for us. Let’s face it, now we have to “go and get their commercials” (whether it is via email, website, or ftp site). Before, they would deliver them right to our door.

So, TELL them what the industry standard is, even if there isn’t one yet. Do what we did, and make one up. If we tell them that, “Everyone else is doing it that way,” then we can force them into doing it the way we want. And then at the very least, we can have some consistency with incoming commercials.

Plus, without SOME sort of guideline, we could end up with some major problems down the road, especially with all the little production houses popping up everywhere lately. If someone sends you a spot(s) that does not follow these guidelines, email them back and let them know, “The industry standard is 192kbps, or “one spot per mp3 file from now on,” or whatever.

Sooner or later, if EVERYONE is telling them what is expected, they will have to conform. But you have to be diligent. If you let them slip one spot by you that is not up to par, they will send ALL the commercials to you below the standard. Gotta nip ‘em in the bud.

You may want to talk to the other stations in your market and come up with your own city’s “standard guidelines.” These seem to be working fine here, but there may be things we overlooked.